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SNC Lavalin manager denied special costs after sexual harassment case against him dismissed

by HR Law Canada

The Supreme Court of British Columbia has denied a request for special costs by a manager at ProTrans BC Operations and SNC Lavalin who was accused of sexual harassment by a colleague.

The manager, A.D., sought special costs from the woman who brought the case against him — A.H. — following a legal battle that had roots dating back to an incident in 2010.

A.H., a former employee of Protrans BC Operations Ltd. and SNC-Lavalin, initially filed a notice of civil claim (NOCC) alleging sexual assault, harassment, intimidation, and threatening conduct by A.D. during a work-sponsored event. The case was dismissed on Jan. 15, 2024, after an application to dismiss was granted under Rule 9-5(1)(d) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules.

A.D., the remaining defendant, subsequently sought special costs, alleging that his accuser had intentionally misled the court.

Justice Sharma’s ruling focused on the legal intricacies surrounding the claims and the procedural history of the case.

“The intersection of procedures under the regimes governing workers’ compensation, the collective agreement, and civil litigation, is not necessarily easy to understand nor navigate,” the court said. This complexity was evident as A.H. navigated multiple legal channels, including a grievance process under her union and a parallel civil claim.

The ruling detailed how the plaintiff, A.H., presented evidence suggesting she had abandoned her grievance procedure to pursue the civil action. However, during litigation, further communications surfaced indicating her grievance might still have been active. Despite this, Justice Sharma found that the late disclosure of certain emails was not as egregious as A.D. claimed, noting, “I am not persuaded on a balance of probabilities that the plaintiff’s omission of emails in her June 2022 affidavit was in furtherance of an intentional litigation strategy to mislead the Court.”

Justice Sharma also addressed A.D.’s characterization in the NOCC as a “repeat sexual offender,” which he argued was scandalous and reckless. She concluded that the allegations, while serious, were not “obviously unfounded, reckless or made out of malice,” and therefore did not warrant the label of reprehensible conduct necessary for special costs.

The court ruled that A.D. was entitled to normal costs for his successful application to strike but denied his claim for special costs.

For more information, see Hartley v Durante, 2024 BCSC 1006 (CanLII).

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